Hope floats: Two communities eschew decade-long conflict in favour of peaceful coexistence
LAKES - Two communities in Lakes state—Amonhom of Kuei and Panyon of Rup—share many resources such as grazing land, water and cattle camps.
All was well till in 2007, a conflict related to a riverbank ownership destroyed their neighbourly relationship, led to serious clashes which killed or injured thousands.
Recently, both communities ended this decade-long feud by signing a peace agreement which is the result of continuous engagements by the state government, peace actors as well as the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) over the years. These engagements included peace dialogues, preventive deployment of Blue Helmets, mobilizing youth, women and intellectuals to embrace durable peace and much more.
To ensure that communities adhere to the letter of this recent agreement, the UN Peacekeeping mission recently visited Wun-Yar cattle camp where young people from both communities are working harmoniously. Mission personnel were accompanied by Mr. Zacharia Kuoi, Director General of the state Ministry of Peacebuilding.
Youth were happy to demonstrate the amity that now prevails among both communities.
“When we heard people from other communities saying that the conflict between us was also trickling down to other parts of the state, it was like a wake-up call for us. This is the main reason all of us came together. Here at Wun-Yar we are brothers and sisters. We vow that no more lives will be lost to senseless violence and we would like that message to be passed on to other communities across Lakes,” stated Marial Makoi, youth leader of Panyon, passionately.
Chol Marial, youth leader of Amonhom in Wun-Yar agrees and reveals that with the overall improvement of the security situation across the state, women, children and young people sleep peacefully.
“Cattle raids have stopped. If a cow goes missing these days, we know that it must have strayed onto the motorway and been hit by a vehicle or was eaten by wild animals. If you find a person on a motorbike on the way to the hospital, it is a case of sickness and not a gunshot wound. There is an atmosphere of peace and more importantly, there is complete trust in one another,” Chol avers, adding his appreciation for all who have helped broker this peace, including the government and UNMISS
This is the first time, since 2012, that former rivals in Lakes state have lived amicably in a single cattle camp.
For his part, Mr. Gibril Turay, a Civil Affairs Officer with UNMISS in Rumbek applauded both communities for setting a noteworthy example.
“We came here today because we know your history. What you have achieved here is remarkable. It goes to show that peace benefits everybody and if people really commit to building peace, mutual respect and trust, no force in the world can divide them again. We will make sure that this peace is supported so that it can be a sustainable one," he stated